offender treatment and punishment

offender treatment and punishment

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  • Created on: 16-06-12 15:42
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Discuss the effectiveness of offender treatment and punishment
When dealing with criminals we need to decide whether to punish them or treat them, which
depends on why the crime occurred. Carroll et al (1987) found two broad approaches towards
sentencing, this were conservative and liberal .The big question surrounding this topic is whether
treatment or punishment is more effective in dealing with crimes.
In prisons in the UK we have used a range of approaches to reduce re-offending. There are 4 main
functions of prisons these are incapacitation, rehabilitation, punish and a deterrence. In prison
offender lose the rights. During the rehabilitation stage of prison, offenders are trained and
educated so offenders have the skill necessary for society.
One piece of research that criticises the effectiveness of prisons is Bartol (1999) who stated that the
more time one spends in prison, the more likely one is to re-offend. This criticises prisons as it shows
that prisons are not effective.
Another Piece of research that criticise the effectiveness of prisons is Zimbardo et al (1973) who
found during the Stanford Prison Study that prison environments created aggressive and controlling
behaviour of the guard and depressive symptoms in prisoners highlighting the negative effect of
prison environments. However researcher have criticised this research as it was a mock prison with
students therefore it had low ecological validity.
One criticism of prisons is that there are not planned to be positive places but more negative places
to punish criminals and act as a deterrent.
One way that offenders can receive treatment is the use of social skill training, to teach offenders
the ability to interact with other people and to function within a group setting. Social skill training is a
form of behaviour therapy to help people who have difficulties relating to other people. The main
aim of SST is to help individuals to learn to interpret social signals so that they can determine how to
act in a variety of situations, as well as raise their self esteem.
One piece of research that supports the effectiveness of treatment is Goldstein et al (1989) who
reported that on average only 15- 20 % of offenders who had completed the social skill training
programme were able to generalise their skills to other situations. This supports the treatment as it
shows that treatment taught the offenders social skills necessary.
Another piece of research that supports the effectiveness of treatment is Aiken (1977) suggested
that Social Skill Training can be used to equip adolescents with the social skills to resist peer pressure,
which reduced the probability that they will become involved in criminal behaviour.
One weakness of Social skill training is that it not always effective as not all offenders lack social
skills, for example sex offenders often have good social skills which allowed them to carry out their

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Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is a type of therapy based on the assumption that behaviour is related
to the interactions of thought. Using treatment such as cognitive behaviour therapy therapist can
work with the criminal on identifying and changing thoughts and behaviours that may be causing the
criminal behaviour. CBT aims to change the way the offender thinks resulting in a change in behaviour.…read more


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